Categories
General

Blue Haired Chix

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of seeing an honest to goodness blue haired woman on the streets of Chicago. She was a petite, attractive, Asian woman probably in her twenties. She hadn’t dyed all of hair blue, just half of the front bangs. Darn this civility! I really wanted to stare for a while, but that would not have been polite.

Summer in Chicago is a wonderful time to be on the streets downtown. There are so many people of all shapes and sizes. And the ladies are mostly very nice to look at! Yes, I’m married, but not dead!πŸ™‚

Again, modern civility forbids that one makes comments about the looks of a stranger, so I’ll do it here! So if you’re an attractive woman who’s been out and about at lunch time in on North Michigan in Chicago, you’re lookin sooo F-I-N-E! Ugh, that felt pretty good!

Now in the interest of full disclosure, my wife is pretty fine too, more so than most of the aforementioned ladies. And no, I’m not just saying that, though I’ll never be able to prove that here…

Categories
General

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

We all get and pass around stories like this, but on occasion one comes around at just the right time. This came from my wife’s childhood piano teacher and for me at least puts my little efforts here on the web into perspective.

=======

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star>> Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano,> a mother took her boy to a Paderewski (see foot note) concert. > After they were seated,> the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the > aisle to greet her. >> Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall,> the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door > marked "NO ADMITTANCE.">> When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin,> the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was > missing Suddenly,> the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway > on stage.>> In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, > innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star.">> At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance,> quickly moved to the piano,> and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit.""Keep playing." >> Then, leaning over,> Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass > part. > Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child,> and he added a running obbligato. >> Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could > have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative > experience. >> The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the > great master played.>> Only the classic, " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.">> Perhaps that's the way it is with God.>> What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy.>> We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. > However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be > beautiful.>> The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. > You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't > quit." "Keep playing." >> May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there,> helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.>> Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the > 'called.'> Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the > things you acquire. > So touch someone by passing this little message along.>> May God bless you and be with you always! >   ***Paderewski, Ignace Jan

Born: Kurylowka, Poland, 1860Died: New York, 1941 aged 80

He composed his first piece at the age of 6, and at 12 entered the Warsaw Musical Institute, studying piano and theory, and graduating as a pianist in 1878. In 1881 he went to Germany to study counterpoint and orchestration, and from 1884 to 1887 he stayed in Vienna, studying piano and earning a living by teaching. In Paris in 1888 and in London in 1890 he was acclaimed as a great master of the piano; he travelled widely, and visited America. In 1899 he settled in Switzerland. From 1910 he took an interest in politics, becoming in time the epitome of Polish patriotism, and prime minister of Poland in 1919. He resigned a year later. He was a great philanthropist and was decorated by Poland, Great Britain, Belgium, France and Italy, and received a great number of honorary degrees.

Categories
General

Say Hello To StressGirl!

I’ve been wanting to update my Product Image Not Found image on the main site for a long time since the last redesign. So I’ve been doing a lot of sketches with an anime theme in mind and finally became inspired by some sketches I’d done based on my oldest daughter and the craziness of the Excel Saga.

So after a couple of days of on and off work going from a letter page sized sketch to scanning it in and finishing it off with Fireworks MX, I got an itty-bitty little image for the main site. Well, I really didn’t want to waste the full sized image having grown somewhat fond of it. So here she is! The StressGirl!

Links

Big StressGirl

Small StressGirl

Categories
General

Gundam Seed Sooner Than You Think!

It’s funny how life can often imitate art, and sometimes it’s scary too. Gundam Seed is a popular Japanese anime series currently airing in the United States on Cartoon Network. The series is an alternate universe retelling of Mobile Suit Gundam, except that this time genetically enhanced humans, known as Coordinators, who live in giant space colonies, are at war with unenhanced humans, Naturals, who live on Earth. The war was apparently started by an Earth alliance nuclear attack on a Coordinator space colony. Beyond that, the heart of the conflict is the fear that the Naturals have for the Coordinators who have enhanced mental and physical capabilities. Many Naturals feel that manipulating human genetics for nontherapeutic purposes is immoral, while many Coordinators feel that conscious human enhancement is the next step in human evolution and a way to a better life. They are faster, stronger, and smarter than the Naturals.

That all sounds nice and science-fictiony doesn’t it? Well, this morning’s New York Times has an op-ed article on the subject of genetic enhancement that is all too real. Here’s a bit of it.

"Belgian Blues are unlike any cows you’ve ever seen. They have a genetic
mutation that means they do not have effective myostatin, a substance
that curbs muscle growth. A result is that Belgian Blues are all
bulging muscles without a spot of fat, like bovine caricatures of
Arnold Schwarzenegger."

The article goes on to describe gene therapies being developed to inhibit myostatin to cure or prevent diseases like muscular dystrophy, and how these same therapies might be used to enhance athletic performance. The article lists a few exceptional athletes who have been found to have naturally occuring genetic mutations that in turn lead to their exceptional abilities. Hmmm, to anyone who has seen Gundam Seed (or the Star Trek episode Space Seed) this sounds all too familiar! So it would seem that questions of just what it means to be human are going to become relevant sooner than we think. The past doesn’t hold much hope for a peaceful discussion of this, as not too long ago (in the history of humankind) my people were not even considered to be human which was very convenient for those in the slave trade.

What do I think of all this? Well first, I don’t believe that genetically enhancing humans is immoral. Our creator has allowed us to enhance ourselves in many ways to suit our cultural tastes and personalities and to learn more about what it means to be human. But I do think that genetic manipulations will be very dangerous with an initially high failure rate. I don’t think there is an ethical way to do this kind of research. We are only understanding little pieces of a large and complex puzzle which means that changing one little thing may appear okay at first, but could have consequences that won’t manifest themselves for some time. There is also the danger of unleashing dangerous organisms that natural systems won’t be able to adapt to in time to counterbalance them. Should this stop us? I don’t know, because someone, somewhere will always have the motivation to go where no one has gone before. So I think it would behoove us all to be fully prepared to deal with whatever fruit comes of genetic research and the consequences.

Categories
General

Will Windows XP SP2 Drive The Market?

As most tech interested people (i.e. geeks) already knows, Windows XP SP2 made its oft delayed debut last week. I resisted any urge to immediately deploy it at work and waited a couple of days before installing it on my home PC. The installation went without a flaw and I think I may have seen a speed increase. My hope was that installing it on my wife’s computer would result inΒ  a similar speed increase.

Alas, it was not to be. My wife’s PC didn’t have enough disk space for the service pack to install. And since I’d already done the ol’ file shuffle, it furnished the perfect excuse to buy a new hard drive. Afterall, SP2 is essentially a must have upgrade for Windows XP users and my wife’s PC was definitely hobbled by a lack of disk space.

So the shopping began. A coworker pointed me to Circuit City which had a great rebate deal on what turned out to be a 120GB Western Digital HD. I had to go to two CCs before finding one in stock. So it occured to me that SP2 might actually be spurring some hardware sales (along with Doom 3 of course). So I guess one could say that the good folks in Redmond are doing their part to aid the alleged economic recovery! πŸ™‚

Final word on this, I installed the 120GB drive in my computer and plan to move the old 40GB to my wife’s. The upgrade was not at all easy until I used the partition copy function of Partition Magic 8 instead of the Data Lifeguard 11 tools. So my advice is to use something like Partition Magic or DiskCopy if you need to move your XP installation to a new disk. If I’d thought of this earlier, it would have saved me a day of work!

Categories
General

Obama Obama Obama!

Last night’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention by Barack Obama was something that many of us in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood have been waiting for for a long time. For a number of years now, we’ve known how good Barack is, and that he was someone who was going places, and we’ve wanted to share that. Well now the cat is out of the bag and there’s no going back!

The thing about Barack is that he’s the real deal. He didn’t just make up all of that stuff in last night’s address in order to turn a clever phrase or two. He believes in what he is saying and acts on it and inspires others to act as well. And now it’s fair to say that the whole world knows that there’s a new star rising on the horizon! Go Barack! Go!

Categories
General

When Games Become Spam

Well maybe that title is a little harsh, but that’s what came to mind when I saw on GameSpy.com that Atari had shipped 2.5 million copies of Driv3r to retailers. Pressing CDs and DVDs is cheap these days, but that’s still a lot of disks for a game that is so far getting lack luster reviews. Also keep in mind that only the most successful titles actually sell anything near 1 million copies, let alone 2! So why is Atari shipping so many?

The most obvious answer is, they need the money. Atari is counting on Driv3r to take them out of the red as the second quarter comes to an end. A little less obvious is that they sort of got away with this sort of thing when they released Enter the Matrix. They flooded the retail channel riding a wave of movie premiere hype and managed to sell over 500000 copies. Many of those copies were probably sold before the really bad reviews of both the movie and the game got around. Doesn’t matter though, it’s still money in the bank. So Atari is going to have another go at it with Driv3r. But without a movie to hype it up and the bad reviews getting around, Atari may have made one trip too many to the well. At least I hope that spamming the retail channel like this won’t prove to be a winning strategy for lackluster games.

Categories
General

Just Say No To NTFS

In this unintentional continuing series of complaints about Windows, today I vent a little bit about NTFS. I’ve spent most of the last couple of days recovering a system from a hard drive crash. Fortunately I had already made backups of everything important and I actually had confidence that I could get the system back up in the usual manner. Boot the Windows set up CD then open the Recovery console, etc…

As you can guess, this did not transpire. Instead the machine froze on every attemp to get to the Recovery console. And, btw, Disk Doctor from emergency floppies doesn’t do NTFS. Lovely, so when an NTFS formatted disk bites the big one, that’s just it for all practical purposes. At least I haven’t yet found an alternate utility to fix an NTFS disk from the command prompt. Now there are things to like about NTFS, like smaller cluster sizes on large disks and user permissions, but for most users, being able to fix it when it breaks may take precedence. Right now, I’m definitely thinking about some alternatives. But alas, I fear I have no practical alternatives, at least professionally…

Enough venting, back to work!

Categories
General

Just Say NO To IE

More flaws have been found in the Internet Explorer web browser! That’s not really news, now is it? A new twist on this old story is that now there is an adware company that has been exploiting this flaw in order to install a toolbar in IE to facilitate pop up ads, often pornographic. Click here for the CNet story.

This is just ridiculous, if there were any other product with the kind of defect rate the IE has, it would be pulled from the market and its creator sued and/or fined. Still IE continues to walk the streets free and clear!

The CNet story makes bare mention of the existence of other browsers that do not have the flaws of IE. And while it does have links to Microsoft for IE work around instructions, it doesn’t have links to Mozilla, Firefox, or Opera. For my time and money, it’s a lot easier to install a better browser, than wade through yet another work around. When are people going to wake up and stop using IE? When someone finally dies because of IE flaws, will they put Gates on trial?

FirefoxMozillaOpera

Categories
General

Talk Nerdy To Me

Over lunch today I was thinking about a story that aired on the news last night about how some antidepressants were causing suicidal tendencies in some teens. They did an interview at length with a girl who was wearing a black t-shirt that said "Talk Nerdy To Me" across the chest. I was a little surprised that they didn’t blur it as is usually the case these days with logos and provocative statements on clothing.

The thing that left the greatest impression though was the fact that there really wasn’t anything wrong with the girl. She came off as intelligent with all of the sort of nerd girl quirkiness. She had had some problems with drugs, but aside from that, she didn’t seem to have any real need for medication. (She kinda reminded me of the nerd girl from Real Genius, plays drums too!) Indeed, she indicated that the prescribed drugs put her in a worse state than the illegal drugs.

I wonder, have we reached a state when everything and anything is to be medicated, especially people who don’t comform to what mainstream society expects? It sure seems that way. While companies ship thousands of IT jobs overseas and complain about how they can’t find good people here in the U.S., we drug up the quirky people who come up with most of the innovations that have built our technological society. This cannot end well.

Categories
General

Firefox Da Bomb

For that last couple of weeks I’ve been using the beta of Mozilla Firefox as my default browser and I must say that I am impressed. Now this isn’t like earth shaking stuff going on, but just the little things.

Its a little quicker on my box to start up and I really like the image scaling along with Mozilla staples like popup blocking and such. And compared to IE, the relative security it leaves me one less thing to worry about. It also seems more compatible with IE leaning sites than Mozilla. In all it just has a few minor rough spots that should be ironed out by the 1.0 release. So if you haven’t already, give it a try, you won’t regret it!

Categories
General

Big Help!

Today’s Big Help award goes to my dad! In my rush to get my new portal theme out the door, I made a mistake that resulted in unreadable news stories. The fix was quick, avoiding potential embarassment. Well not too much embarassement, but at least minor irritation.

Way to go Dad!8)

Categories
General

Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up To Be Programmers

Well actually, if they are very very good then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Anyway here is an interesting book I ran across in a post on Slashdot. The title alone makes it intriguing.

Java Programming for Kids, Parents and Grandparents

Categories
General

Lens Flare and Fireworks MX

There’s no soccer today so I’m hoping to get more work done on the portal theme makeover. I finished up the main work on my Amazon shop module and now I want to get visual! Last night I must have spent 4 or 5 hours in the code on the module before I realized it! I guess I was having too much fun.

Anyway, I got inspired and decide to go in a different direction for the new theme than I had originally thought. I’ve got an image in my head involving lens flare. Unfortunately, Fireworks MX (my graphics weapon of choice) doesn’t have this built in. But I did find a tutorial on Lens Flares in Fireworks MX that looks pretty good.

Click here to see the Lens Flare Tutorial.

Categories
General

The Prime Directive

Since the Iraq mess got started I’ve been wondering if maybe Gene Roddenberry hit it right on the head with Star Trek’s Prime Directive. The Prime Directive basically states that the Federation will not interfere in the development of other civilizations. So Kirk and company can’t go down to some primative planet and give them fusion reactors for example, or topple a government they don’t like. Now any fan knows that there have been numerous violations or bendings of this, but it is still a starting point.

Anyway, the Iraq mess is more proof that we never really know what is going to happen or how people will react, good intentions or not. Perhaps it would have been better to let the Iraqis eventually remove Saddam, if that was their choice. Who is to say that more people would have suffered or not? The invasion took this choice away from them and may have delayed the true creation of a freer Iraq.

We do need to have relationships with other nations. And we should make our opinions known to them. But maybe it’s time to stop interfering in their internal affairs and leave them free to develop the civilization they want to have. American style democracy is not what everyone wants. I think, because we are all humans, we want to have a say in how we are governed. But the shape that takes is necessarily different for each culture. And some cultures are closer to their ideal than others. American guns, ships, and tanks can only mess this up when used as they were in Iraq. I hope that we’ve learned a good lesson.